US: Better college stats needed on dating violence

By Kimberly Hefling

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, June 19 2014 8:13 a.m. MDT

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration wants colleges and universities to compile more thorough statistics on stalking, dating violence and domestic violence.

The Education Department announced Thursday it is proposing a rule change to provide a better picture of these problems on campuses.

The change falls under the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to report crime statistics on or near their campuses and provide warnings in a timely manner if safety is threatened. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 signed by President Barack Obama amended the Clery Act by extending additional rights to campus victims. Victims' advocates have said the statistics, as currently compiled, don't always paint an accurate picture of the extent of sexual crimes on campuses.

"These new rules strengthen schools' capacity to provide safer college campuses for students and to keep everyone better informed about campus security policies and procedures," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.

Among the other proposed rule changes:

—Adding gender identity and national origin as categories of bias under the Clery Act's definition of hate crimes.

—Strengthening confidentiality protections for victims.

—Requiring colleges and universities to ensure that disciplinary proceedings in these types of cases are "prompt, fair and impartial."

The public has until July 21 to comment.

Ada Meloy, general counsel for the American Council on Education, which represents college presidents, said her organization will carefully examine the proposed changes to determine whether they would make campuses safer or add to the confusion colleges and universities face as they seek to comply with the law.

The proposed rule comes nearly two months after a White House task force that focused on sexual assault in higher education recommended actions that colleges and universities should take to protect victims and inform the public about the magnitude of the problem, such as ensuring the availability of confidential victims' advocates and conducting surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assault on their campuses.

That same week, the Education Department for the first time identified 55 schools facing federal investigation under Title IX for the way they handle sexual abuse allegations by their students.

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Follow Kimberly Hefling on Twitter: http://twitter.com/khefling

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